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Highlights

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The museum’s galleries are continually changing as newly acquired works and loaned objects join our spaces and expand the perspectives and stories that we share.

A photograph shows an immense multicolored, shiny woven work in the shape of a square, a full story high, against a white wall in the Art Institute's Modern Wing. Ordered vertical bands of color in the middle of the work give way to scattered diagonals toward the bottom, while at the top colors are clumped together to make cloud-like accumulations.

The Deluge, 2021


El Anatsui. Private collection

The Deluge, a loan from a private collection, presents a version of the Biblical flood. Near the top of the work, abstract shapes resemble clouds with blue lines of rain shooting down. Inspired in part by the graphic woven patterns of African cloths, Ghanaian artist El Anatsui uses recycled cans and other found aluminum to weave sculptural tapestries.

The repurposed objects bear traces of their initial use; as the artist has explained, they comprise “media which come with history, meaning, with something [that] means something to me. Not just oil paint from a tube. I can’t relate to that well. I would rather go for something people have used. Then there is a link between me and the other people who have touched that piece.”

On view in Griffin Court


Maruja Mallo

Maruja Mallo (born Ana Maria Gómez González) was a pioneering painter who contributed to the development of Surrealism and Magic Realism in Spain. Raised in a remote town in Galicia, she moved to Madrid at the age of 18 and developed friendships with Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, and Federico García Lorca, as well as others who became known as the “Generation of ’27.” 

A pivotal early painting, El Mago/Pim Pam Pum was inspired by the street culture of Madrid and established the tone and visual vocabulary of her “Verbenas” (1927–28), paintings of public celebrations that teem with energy and blend playful spectacle with social critique. It is the first work by the artist to enter a public collection in the United States and introduces an important female voice into the museum’s holdings of the interwar avant-garde in Europe, joining the work of Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Suzanne Duchamp, and Angel Planells.

On view in Gallery 396


Vilhelm Hammershøi

This painting by Vilhelm Hammershøi is an exceptional example of the Danish artist’s most famous body of work—a series of paintings depicting the interior of his sparsely decorated apartment in Copenhagen, where this composition hung for decades. In recent years we’ve sought to expand our narratives of European painting and sculpture to include regions beyond France, and this outstanding example of Danish painting will become a cornerstone of the increasingly nuanced histories of modernism on view in our galleries.

On view in Gallery 246


Yeesookyung

The artist Yeesookyung (born in 1963) seeks to free Korean ceramics from the burden of perfection, an ideal imposed by long tradition. Potters in Korea are known to routinely destroy traditional ceramics considered imperfect. Fortunately, these pots find a second life in the art of Yeesookyung, who uses the shards and fragments to create flowing shapes that look like organic life forms. Translated Vase consists of green-glazed stoneware and white porcelain —exemplifying the artistic achievements of the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties respectivly—held together with a mixture of glue to which she adds gold leaf. (The Korean words for “gold” and “crack” sound the same) For the artist, creating these forms is a harmonious way of merging the ideals of the past with the sensibilities of the present.

On view in Gallery 135


Jacopino del Conte

Jacopino del Conte’s Madonna and Child with Saints Elizabeth and John the Baptist beautifully illustrates his signature style: energetic compositions that feature monumental figures and a vibrant, colorful palette. Here, the artist placed biblical figures in a contemporary setting with recognizable elements of a domestic Florentine interior. Given the scarcity of works of 16th-century Italian paintings available, this painting presented a unique opportunity to add further strength to our world-class collection of European paintings.

On view in Gallery 205


Elizabeth Catlett

This early sculpture by Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012) demonstrates her confident abstraction of the human form. Notice the angular features and the way she carved deep into the stone. Catlett developed her expressive, modern sensibility through her study of African art: “After all,” she once said, “abstraction was born in Africa.” Incorporating aesthetics of simplification, planarity, and exaggeration, Catlett established her own approach to depicting African American subjects.

On view in Gallery 264


Wolfgang Paalen

Born in Vienna and active in Paris and Mexico City, artist Wolfgang Paalen was an influential Surrealist thinker, exhibition designer, and publisher. In 1936–37 he invented the technique of fumage, or drawing with candle smoke, which became his signature. Untitled (Fumage) (1938) is among Paalen’s most ambitious and successful large-scale fumages, showing off his technical skill and soaring imagination. The smoke residue and oil paint blend seamlessly, creating abstract forms that suggest both aerial and aquatic creatures coming in and out of view.

On view in Gallery 398


Julie Hart Beers

In the 1860s, Julie Hart Beers (1834–1913) launched a successful career as a landscape painter, supporting herself and her family through her artwork and teaching. She seized the few opportunities available to her for training and studio space through her brothers, who were also painters, and connected with other women artists in New York City. In this composition, a lush forest frames a luminous view of the water and mountains. Beers rendered the trees with swift brushwork and employed minute flourishes to evoke two or three figures on the shoreline.

On view in Gallery 170


Kukuli Velarde

In La Linda Nasca, Peruvian artist Kukuli Velarde (b.1962) explores the duality of Indigenous and Spanish influences on Andean culture. The low-fired clay sculpture reimagines the statue of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception in Cusco’s cathedral as an ancient Nasca goddess. Crowned in a silver starred halo and adorned with iconography from ancient Nasca ceramics like those stewarded by the Art Institute of Chicago, La Linda Nasca creates a throughline from pre-Columbian traditions to the post-colonial present of contemporary Latin American art. 

On view in Gallery 136


Milan

Tsar Dmitry I, known also as False Dmitry I or Pseudo-Demetrius I, was the only tsar to come to power through military campaigns and popular uprisings. Supported in large part by Polish nobles, he was heavily influenced by Western tastes and politics. His Italian-made helmet, now reunited with its accompanying breast and backplate, was both highly fashionable for the time and a symbol of the tsar’s power. The upper visor above the vision slits is intricately etched with the Moscow coat of arms and an imperial double-headed eagle, announcing the sovereignty of its wearer. Unfortunately, Dmitry’s claim that he was the lost son of Ivan the Terrible was false. Within a year of his rule, the Russian nobility assassinated him and shot his ashes out of a cannon.

On view in Gallery 239


Francisco de Zurbarán

The story goes that Saint Romanus of Antioch was martyred in 303 CE for encouraging imprisoned Christians who refused to make sacrifices to Roman gods. Here he is painted alongside Saint Barulas, a child of seven inspired by the elder saint’s words. In this representation of the martyrs by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), Romanus holds his tongue, torn out by his persecutors, in one hand and a book inscribed with a prayer for the faithful in the other. Painted to support the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant movement, Zurbaran would have aimed to make the saints accessible to everyday people. In this hyper-real, detailed depiction, the figures feel close enough to touch. 

Find this newly conserved painting and frame in Gallery 211


George Minne

Belgian sculptor George Minne (1866–1941) explored the imagery of kneeling youths throughout his career. His obsession peaked in his Fountain of the Kneeling Youths, presented in 1900 at the Vienna Secession, where this plaster was likely shown alongside five counterparts. The audience was both repulsed by the gauntness of the figures and impressed with their haunting impact. Minne’s deep interest in Symbolism is reflected in the mystery and ambiguity of the piece; the posture of the thin young man, kneeling with his arms wrapped tightly around his chest, suggests a closing off of the self, but whether it’s from torment, grief, resignation, contemplation, weariness, or something else, is left to the viewer.

On view in Gallery 246

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